WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today awarded approximately $300 million more in grants under the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program to help thousands of very low-income Veteran families around the nation who are permanently housed or transitioning to permanent housing. The SSVF grant program provides access to crucial services to prevent homelessness for Veterans and their families.
SSVF funding, which supports outreach, case management and other flexible assistance to prevent Veteran homelessness or rapidly re-house Veterans who become homeless, has been awarded to 275 non-profit organizations in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. These grants, key elements of VA’s implementation of the Housing First Strategy, enable vulnerable Veterans to secure or remain in permanent housing. A list of SSVF grantees is located at www.va.gov/homeless/ssvf.asp.
“Since 2010, the Housing First Strategy has helped cut Veteran Homelessness nearly in half,” said VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald. “Housing First is why 360,000 Veterans and family members have been housed, rehoused or prevented from falling into homelessness over the last five years. SSVF helps homeless Veterans quickly find stable housing and access the supportive services they – and their families – need.”
Grantees will continue to provide eligible Veteran families with outreach, case management, and assistance obtaining VA and other benefits, which may include health care, income support services, financial planning, child care, legal services, transportation, housing counseling, among other services.
Grantees are expected to leverage supportive services grant funds to enhance the housing stability of very low-income Veteran families who are occupying permanent housing. In doing so, grantees are required to establish relationships with local community resources.
In fiscal year (FY) 2015, SSVF served more than 157,000 participants and is on track to exceed that number in FY 2016. As a result of these and other efforts, Veteran homelessness is down 47 percent since the launch of the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness in 2010. Also since 2010, more than 360,000 Veterans and their family members have been permanently housed, rapidly re-housed, or prevented from falling into homelessness by VA’s homelessness programs and targeted housing vouchers provided by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Today’s grant recipients successfully competed for grants under a January 15, 2016, Notice of Fund Availability. Applications were due February 5, 2016. The funding will support SSVF services in FY 2017, which starts October 1, 2016, and ends September 30, 2017.
Last year marked the fifth consecutive year I’ve visited France, but this time, the mood was markedly different. Terrorist attacks had changed both the topics and the nature of civil discourse, and there was a dramatic increase in physical security around all public events. It was noticeable as soon as I stepped off the plane.
In years past, you’d see pairs of uniformed soldiers of various noncombat arms strolling around Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris looking bored, checking out the young women, and trying to feign interest in a largely symbolic duty. In contrast, last summer I saw squads of jocked-up infantry veterans deployed to even second-string airports, where they were actually patrolling and even — horror of horrors — had magazines in their weapons.
The rifle they carried was the FAMAS, the iconic “Bugle” and the last service weapon to be produced in a nation that at one time led the world in firearms innovation. In 2016, France was in the process of selecting a replacement, which would come from either Belgium — on whose soil hundreds of thousands of French servicemen died — or from Germany, whose conscripts faced them across artillery-scarred mud and from behind the sights of K98 Mausers. France wound up choosing the HK version of America’s service rifle. But hey, we’re all Europeans now.
It seemed appropriate, therefore, to visit the city in which France produced the millions of rifles, bayonets, machine guns, and pistols needed to equip their armed forces, who just 100 years ago were locked in a bloody, existential battle for their nation’s survival. The factory where thousands of workers toiled in a desperate race to put weapons in the hands of those who were battling the Teutonic hordes had been shuttered and bulldozed in the 2000s, but their remarkable product line had been placed behind glass for visitors to gawk at.
Saint-Étienne was, during the latter part of the Industrial Revolution, one of the most important manufacturing centers in Europe, producing textiles, machine tools, bicycles, and farm equipment, but its history as an arms maker dates to the Middle Ages. Swords and armor were manufactured for French kings and emperors to equip their armies, and as edged weapons transitioned to powder, the musket of 1777 became the most prolific firearm ever produced until the advent of WWI.
Over 7 million examples were made (though not all by Saint-Étienne), and troops so equipped faced off against those armed with the Brown Bess in Europe and Asia. French firearms featured prominently in the early days of American history too. Although the famed Charleville musket of the Revolutionary War was named after the eponymous state arsenal in the Ardennes, many were produced in Saint-Étienne and made their way across the Atlantic. Later, in the Civil War, France supplied cannons, Minie rifles, pistols, submarines, and ironclads to both sides.
Pair of presentation pistols from the workshop of maître Nicholas Boutet.
While the history of French firearms development in Saint-Étienne could easily fill its own building, the collection shares space with other notable local trades and is housed almost entirely on the upper floor of the Musee d’Science et Industrie. The building itself is reached by crossing a small town square that’s quintessentially French; while we were there, the weekly market was well underway and townsfolk were stocking up on locally grown produce, meat, and cheese.
Climbing a few limestone steps to the entrance, the ballistic pilgrim enters the usual foyer-slash-gift-shop, ponies up their entrance fee, and then climbs the stairs past displays of glass and lace.
Examples of medieval armor, swords, and halberds greet the museum’s visitors as they enter the third floor space of the Museum of Science and Industry. Inside, displays cover both combat and jousting, with examples of both highly decorated plate armor and mail in evidence, along with the lances and shields every well-equipped nobleman needed in order to win the heart of a fair maiden.
The period where armor was being supplanted due to the ability of commoners to punch big frickin’ holes in it with their comparatively cheap matchlocks overlaps the birth of several of the most notable area workshops. Locks from this time are displayed in wall-mounted cases and some are quite stunning in both design and execution. The earliest service firearms on display are a pair of wheel-lock cavalry pistols dating from 1550, while a suit of Maximilian armor dates all the way back to 1415.
Although Alexandre Dumas’ characters were fictitious, his father was an honest-to-God general in the French revolutionary wars, and there really were two companies of Musketeers who served as the king’s bodyguard. The only remaining example of a Musketeer pistol is on display in the MSI, along with corresponding Mousquetons, or cavalry carbines.
Fusil d’Assaut de la Manufacture d’Armes de Saint-Étienne.
At around the same time, an enterprising gunsmith by the name of Nicholas Boutet was hiring the best artisans he could find to produce what could be fairly considered some of the finest guns the world has ever seen. As arquebusier, or gunsmith to the court of Louis XVI, he was given free reign to create extraordinary works of art, such as the pair of cased pistols shown here.
As the industrial age progressed, cartridge arms replaced flintlocks in a process familiar to amateur historians on both sides of the pond. Production became both codified and centralized, with Saint-Étienne’s place as a strategic asset to the French Empire cemented in place with every one of the bricks laid to enclose the new factory. Revolvers from the 1870s are showcased and demonstrate just how advanced their designs were in comparison to contemporaries on the world stage.
While we were taming the west with Colt single-actions, the French were fielding their first sophisticated D/A revolver, which for a military pistol was exquisitely made (in the officer’s variant anyway — rank has its privileges). The 11mm 1873 Chamelot-Delvigne was made until 1886 and continued in service until well into the Second World War. Civilian versions were widely distributed, with Belgian copies hitting the market soon after the military adopted the pistol; we encountered examples of both at a local flea market, where, due to being over 100 years old with no currently manufactured ammunition, they’re freely traded.
The MSI has numerous, well-preserved samples of drop-dead gorgeous French sporting arms from the golden age of gun making, but it’s the oddballs and one-offs that are particularly eye-catching. Such as the carbide-powered rifles and the high-powered airguns, along with early semi-auto shotguns that show a level of development that surpass their American counterparts. This is, after all, the country that was the first to field a self-loading service rifle, over 20 years before the Garand stepped onto the stage.
As visitors make their way past case after case of well-preserved and displayed products of the gunmakers’ craft, they eventually fetch up at the usual Euro-bullshit display of modern art, the message being, of course, that guns are bad m’kay? It’s ironic then that the last exhibit before having to suffer the artists’ smug self-righteousness is of the final products of the Saint-Étienne factory, which is, of course, where our story started. We can only hope that the gamble of neglecting and then destroying the remnants of their domestic arms industry doesn’t come back to bite them. History’s a bitch, ain’t it?
Things you expect in pawn shops: jewelry, electronics, and nuclear bomb parts.
Wait, that last one isn’t right. No one expects to find nuclear bomb parts in a pawn shop. But in this scene from Pawn Stars, Rick calls in an expert to assess whether the cover for a B-57 nuclear bomb is authentic.
On its own, the cover for a B-57 is no more capable of being used as a weapon than a pen cap is of writing, so it’s perfectly safe to buy and sell. Of course, it’s also hard to find a use for nuclear bomb parts without any nuclear bombs.
See Pawn Star Rick negotiate the purchase in this clip:
For the first time ever, six US Marine F-35s took part in Red Flag, a hyper realistic, three-week-long training exercise that takes place in the skies above Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.
The fifth-generation jets will take part in aerial combat and close-air support drills, as well as mock war games against opposing forces as part of the exercise. Red Flag is scheduled to run from July 11 to July 29.
However, in more recent simulations, the improved F-35 simply dominated F-15s in dogfights.
The Marine pilots seem optimistic about the F-35s’ prospects in the simulated combat, and they are pleased with the work it has done so far.
“We’re really working on showcasing our surface-to-air capabilities,” Maj. Brendan Walsh, an F-35 pilot said in a Marine Corps press release. “The F-35 is integrating by doing various roles in air-to-air and air-to-ground training.”
“With the stealth capability, the biggest thing that this aircraft brings that the others do not is situational awareness,” Walsh said.
“The sensor sweep capability that the F-35 brings to the fight, not only builds those pictures for me, but for the other platforms as well. We’re able to share our knowledge of the battle space with the rest of the participants in order to make everyone more effective.”
As with any warplane, the capability of the platform is directly tied to the skill of the pilot, and exercises like Red Flag provide unparalleled opportunities to train in realistic situations. This year, the F-35 will train with F-16s, F-22s, F-18s, B-52s and other current Air Force, Army, Marine, and Navy platforms.
Lt. Col. J.T. Bardo, the commanding officer of the Marine flight squadron taking part in Red Flag said of the F-35: “If I had to go into combat, I wouldn’t want to go into combat in any other airplane.”
Watch a video report on the F-35 at Red Flag below:
The Coast Guard has been very busy recapitalizing its fleet. Many of its vessels, like the Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters and Reliance-class medium endurance cutters are quite old.
The Coast Guard has built six Bertholf-class cutters out of a planned class of nine to replace the 12 Hamilton-class ships. How nine vessels can be in 12 places at once is a mystery, but that’s a discussion for another time.
For their next step, the Coast Guard has been building what have been called the Sentinel-class cutters to replace 49 Island-class cutters built from 1985-1992.
The Island-class cutters started out at 110 feet long, and were armed with a Mk 38 Bushmaster chain gun like the one used on the M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle, as well as a pair of M2 .50-caliber machine guns (“Ma Deuce”). They have a top speed of nearly 30 knots and a range of 3,300 miles. The Coast Guard had 49 of them, but an effort to lengthen and modernize them went bad, and eight vessels had to be mothballed.
The new cutters are 154 feet long. While the main gun is the same Mk 38 Bushmaster, a Sentinel-class cutter boasts four M2 heavy machine guns as a secondary battery – twice as many as an Island-class cutter. The cutter is slightly slower (28 knots) and has shorter range (2,900 miles), and can launch a Short-Range Prosecutor, essentially a rigid-hull inflatable boat.
The Coast Guard plans to build 58 of the Sentinel-class cutters, replacing the Island-class cutters. According to a report by Military.com, the 24th Sentinel-class cutter, USCGC Oliver Barry (WPC 1124), will be commissioned this coming October in Honolulu, Hawaii.
The Coast Guard though, is planning to retire the Island-class cutter USCGC Kiska (WPB 1336), which is based at Hilo, without replacing it at the largest city on the easternmost of the Hawaiian Islands.
The Coast Guard is also planning to purchase the first nine of a planned 25-ship “Offshore Patrol Cutter” class. These vessels will replace not only the 14 ancient Reliance-class medium endurance cutters, but the 13 Bear-class medium endurance cutters as well.
Navy pilot David S. McCampbell, a commander at the time, set the single mission aerial combat record when he led a two-plane flight against a 60-plane Japanese attack and shot down at least nine of the enemy himself, forcing the Japanese forces back before they could fire on a single American ship.
In the air, McCampbell proved his reputation as one of the Navy’s fiercest pilots. He was able to engage the Japanese out of range of the carrier and shot down nine of them while disrupting the formations of the rest. The Japanese eventually turned back without firing a single time on the Essex.
The pilot would later receive the Medal of Honor for his actions. His nine aerial victories that day are believed to have taken place in 95 minutes, meaning he averaged about one enemy plane shot down every 10 minutes.
Then, the very next day, McCampbell and the Fabled Fifteen went on the attack. McCampbell acted as the targeting coordinator and piloted one of the planes in a massive assault with planes from three task groups. The American formation destroyed an aircraft carrier, a cruiser, and two destroyers while also damaging five other large ships. He later received the Navy Cross for this engagement.
McCampbell’s reputation as a feared pilot was earned well before Oct. 1944, too. In June of that year, he led a flight of U.S. defenders against an 80-plane attack by Japanese forces, disrupting the attack and shooting down seven of the enemy. In September, he led an attack on Japanese ships, shot down four enemy planes, and heavily damaged a merchant ship.
Navy Commander David S. McCampbell’s plane had 34 Japanese flags to represent his victories over that many Japanese planes. (Photo: U.S. Navy Photographer’s Mate Second Class Paul T. Erickson)
Beyond hardware, however, countries in Asia are also reassessing the balance of power there, contemplating how to engage China and what role the US — long a guarantor of security and trade in the region — will play going forward.
“Everyone out in Asia is, on one hand, scared of China, and, the other hand, they need China for trade,” Mike Fabey, author of the 2017 book Crashback, about tensions between China and the US in the Pacific, told Business Insider. “Also there’s a real sense of, ‘China’s right here. America’s on the other side of the world.'”
Officials in the region felt the Obama administration “was letting China slide with a few things here and there” to secure cooperation, or at least noninterference, from Beijing on other issues, like the Paris climate accord, Fabey said. “But even with that, there was still definitely a feeling, ‘Hey, America’s got our back.'”
The Trump administration has referred to the region as the “Indo-Pacific,” in what is likely meant to be a rhetorical swipe at China, though it also points to the region’s maritime dimensions. But, Fabey said, “with the recent administration, there’s much more of a feeling now in the Western Pacific, even from folks like Australia, who are really wondering exactly how far America would go now if China were to do anything.”
That has translated into greater interest in local partnerships.
“You’re starting to see Australia, Japan, and India, for example, there’s a new emerging trilateral out there, and that they’re counting the US out. The US is involved,” Fabey said, but there’s now more of a feeling of, “‘we’re on our own more, at least we should act like we’re on our own more, and we’ll do it without the US if we have to.'”
‘They’re very good at playing that card’
First proposed in 2007, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, made up of the US, Japan, Australia, and India, gained new life in 2017, when officials from those countries met to discuss a “free and open Indo-Pacific” and seven core themes, including freedom of navigation, maritime security, and a rules-based order in the region.
Some members of the Quad have tread carefully out of concern about China, which protested its restoration. India has also expressed reticence about the partnership — in part over concerns about its own autonomy as well as doubts about the other three countries’ approaches to China.
“China likes to play the card, ‘Look, you’re Asian. We’re Asian. Quite honestly, no Western power is going to protect your Asian rights out here … You can’t depend on the West to do that,'” Fabey told Business Insider. “And they’re very good at playing that card.”
But cooperation between countries in the region continues, with an eye on securing and enhancing trade and security.
Japan has increased efforts to counter China’s Belt and Road initiative, ramping up international partnerships and investments — including in Sri Lanka, where a recent Chinese port project has angered India.
Australia has followed suit, talking to the US, India, and Japan about a joint regional infrastructure program to rival Beijing’s outreach.
Australia, India, and Japan have been pursuing a trilateral partnership since late 2015, aimed at ensuring “open and free” movement in the region and advancing their shared interests.
The Malabar 2017 exercises in summer 2017, in which India, Japan, and the US took part, emphasized antisubmarine warfare — including submarine-on-submarine exercises. “Nowhere else does the American Navy do that,” Fabey noted, saying cooperation between US and Indian navies “is unlike any other in the world.” (While New Delhi blocked Australia’s participation in Malabar 2017, their defense cooperation has progressed.)
India and Japan did three days of antisubmarine exercises in the Indian Ocean in October 2017.
In March 2018, Vietnam’s president visited India, where the leaders of the two countries put out a statement pledging to continue defense cooperation. Two days later, US carrier made a port call in Vietnam — the first such visit in four decades and a sign of growing ties between the US and Hanoi (whose acquisition of submarines has also irked China).
Around the same time, India’s army chief said that New Delhi was working with Australia, Japan, and the US to guarantee “freedom of navigation” in the region. A few days later, India began its Milan 2018 naval exercises, underscoring New Delhi’s growing engagement with the region.
The Milan exercises were first held in 1995 with four countries. This year, 16 countries joined the drills, which, for the first time, included a joint multilateral exercise at sea. The naval portion took place around the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, strategically located near the Malacca Straits, which connects the Indian and Pacific oceans.
That was followed in late March 2018 by the fourth meeting between US Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and Indian navy chief Adm. Sunil Lanba, where they “discussed ways to improve interoperability to include additional naval exercises and staff talks.”
As with the Quad, India, which uses Russian-made military hardware, has been reluctant about joint operations. Its reticence about information-sharing has reportedly hindered those exercises and broader interoperability.
‘Like their Caribbean’
China has made clear its displeasure with such regional cooperation.
When Japan’s inclusion in the Malabar exercise was permanent in late 2015, Beijing reacted sharply, saying it hoped “the relevant country will not provoke confrontation and heighten tensions in the region.”
The rivalry between China and India in the Indian Ocean appeared inflamed in February 2018, when both looked poised to respond in the Maldives, where the government imposed a state of emergency, jailed opponents, and stifled protests. (The state of emergency was lifted in late March 2018.) India has long wielded influence in the Maldives, but the government there has courted China, buying into what critics fear is Beijing’s “debt-trap diplomacy.”
China has also flexed its muscles in the South and East China Seas. In January 2018, a Chinese sub was detected around the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, which are controlled by Japan but disputed by Beijing. It the first confirmed identification of a Chinese sub that area and drew a Japanese protest. Chinese ships have entered that area on six days this year, most recently on March 23, 2018.
In recent days, Vietnam, which has sought to mollify Beijing after the US carrier’s visit, assented to Chinese pressure to scrap an offshore oil-drilling project — the second time in a year Hanoi has done so. The cancellation is likely to be read in Beijing as a sign Vietnam’s strategic thinking has not changed, despite US shows of force in the area.
Such a victory means Beijing’s efforts to assert its claims, and to influence its neighbors, are unlikely to end. Even with regional efforts to counter China, the country’s geography, resources, and military put it in a position to wield considerable influence over the region and the trade that passes through it — which makes a continuing US presence all the more important, said Fabey, author of Crashback.
“If the US were to pull back from there … China would take control, and if China wants to do this, they basically would,” he told Business Insider. “The South China Sea could be like their Caribbean. How we control the Caribbean, China says it wants to control the South China Sea.”
“Now as long as everything’s equal — that is to say, that China is benefiting from that being free and open — then I guess there’s no problem,” Fabey said. But that could change, he added, if Beijing decides changing it is in its interests. “China will always do what’s best for China.”
The Marines have been having a hard time with their force of F/A-18 Hornets. The situation was bad enough that a couple of months ago, they pulled nearly two dozen from Davis Monthan Air Force Base’s preservation facility. But things have gotten worse, with three crashes, two of them fatal, over the summer.
The result: The Marines recently called a timeout. All three Marine Air Wings were ordered to halt F/A-18 operations for 24 hours while commanders figure out a way to reduce the accident rate on these planes. As reported by the USNI Blog, each MAW is required to take two such days each year for purposes of sharing “best practices” and to figure out how to improve the Marine Corps’ Hornets’ state of readiness. Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, the Marine Corps’ Deputy Commandant for Aviation, who ordered the stand-down, will receive reports on the readiness of Marine Hornet squadrons.
Service-wide groundings of a particular model of airplane have happened before. F-15s across the United States Air Force were grounded in November 2007 after one Eagle assigned to the Missouri Air National Guard fell apart during a flight. It was later discovered that a longeron (that connects the aircraft’s skin to the frame) failed, causing the aircraft’s mid-flight disintegration. The Air Force retired its F-15A/B models as they, too, aged. A report from The Los Angeles Times at the time of the F-15 crash stated that many F-15s were already under flight restrictions due to concerns about metal fatigue.
Despite the issues that the F-15 force had with fatigue and flight time, the F-22’s production was stopped at 187 airframes in 2009, forcing a number of F-15C airframes (roughly 178 – almost ten squadrons’ worth) to keep soldiering on, despite their advancing age (the last F-15C serial number for the United States Air Force was from Fiscal Year 1986 – over three decades ago).
The Marines use the F/A-18C/D versions of the Hornet, while the bulk of the Navy’s force has transitioned to F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. The Super Hornets have longer range and greater payload, as well as more modern electronics and some signature reduction. The Marines did not buy Super Hornets, choosing to hold out for the F-35. But because of F-35 program delays, the Marine Hornets have had to hold out longer than planned.
This situation is ironic in one sense: The F/A-18 first entered service with the Marine Corps, which was seeking to replace aging F-4 Phantoms. The Hornet drew raves for ease of maintenance and its availability. Now, the F/A-18s are the aging mounts, and the Marines are struggling to keep them airborne.
The Royal Navy has spent a lot of money on the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, which will enter service this year, and HMS Prince of Wales, slated to enter service in 2020. But these vessels, with the billions of pounds spent on their construction, may have a serious flaw that could have fatal consequences.
Let’s acknowledge some basic Aircraft Carrier 101: The primary weapon of an aircraft carrier is the aircraft on board. For the Queen Elizabeth class, this will likely be at least two dozen V/STOL version of the Joint Strike Fighter, what America calls the F-35B, along with Merlin HM.2 helicopters. This is a very potent air wing, arguably the most potent the Royal Navy has deployed on a carrier.
But take a look at America’s newest entry in that class: The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). Yes, it has an air wing with four squadrons of multi-role fighters, plus others of helicopters, electronic warfare planes, and airborne radars. But it also has self-defense systems.
The Sixteenth Edition of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World reports that the Ford has RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missiles, and Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems. This provides three layers of defense against incoming missiles that the escorts don’t shoot down first.
The Queen Elizabeth-class carriers will be equipped with three Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems. There are four 30mm autocannon for use against small boats. That’s it. Only one layer of defense – and that one layer isn’t quite the state of the art. Naval-Technology.com reports that the Queen Elizabeth is fitted for the ASTER 15 missile (now called the Sea Viper), but actual installation depends on finds being made available.
This is a glaring omission. The United Kingdom lost eight aircraft carriers in World War II. Unless this armament issue is resolved, HMS Queen Elizabeth could be the ninth. You can see more about this potential Achilles Heel in the video below.
Creative geniuses behind digital humans and human-like characters in Hollywood blockbusters Avatar, Blade Runner 2049, Maleficent, Furious 7, The Jungle Book, Ready Player One, and others have U.S. Army-funded technology to thank for visual effects.
That technology was developed at the U.S. Army Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California. The ICT is funded by the RDECOM Research Laboratory, the Army’s corporate research laboratory (ARL).
Developers of that technology were recently announced winners of one of nine scientific and technical achievements by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
A Technical Achievement Award will be presented at the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills on Feb. 9, 2019, to Paul Debevec, Tim Hawkins, and Wan-Chun Ma for the invention of the Polarized Spherical Gradient Illumination facial appearance capture method, and to Xueming Yu for the design and engineering of the Light Stage X capture system during the Academy’s annual Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation.
Creative geniuses behind digital humans and human-like characters in Hollywood blockbusters have U.S. Army-funded technology to thank for visual effects. Pictured here, engineers work on the Light Stage X capture system’s recording process.
(U.S. Army Institute for Creative Technologies)
The Scientific and Technical Academy Awards demonstrate a proven record of contributing significant value to the process of making motion pictures.
The Academy Certificate reads: “Polarized Spherical Gradient Illumination was a breakthrough in facial capture technology allowing shape and reflectance capture of an actor’s face with sub-millimeter detail, enabling the faithful recreation of hero character faces. The Light Stage X structure was the foundation for all subsequent innovation and has been the keystone of the method’s evolution into a production system.”
The new high-resolution facial scanning process uses a custom sphere of computer-controllable LED light sources to illuminate an actor’s face with special polarized gradient lighting patterns which allow digital cameras to digitize every detail of every facial expression at a resolution down to a tenth of a millimeter.
A Soldier demonstrates the Light Stage X capture system technology.
(U.S. Army Institute for Creative Technologies)
The technology has been used by the visual effects industry to help create digital human and human-like characters in a number of movies and has scanned over one hundred actors including Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie, Zoe Saldana, Hugh Jackman, Brad Pitt, and Dwayne Johnson at University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies.
Additionally, the Light Stage technology assists the military in facilitating recordings for its Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program through a system called the Digital Survivor of Sexual Assault (DS2A). DS2A leverages research technologies previous created for the Department of Defense under the direction of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and allows for Soldiers to interact with a digital guest speaker and hear their stories. As part of the ongoing SHARP training, this technology enables new SHARP personnel, as well as selected Army leaders, to participate in conversations on SHARP topics through the lens of a survivor’s firsthand account. It is the first system of its kind to be used in an Army classroom.
All four awardees were members of USC ICT’s Graphics Laboratory during the development of the technology from 2006 through 2016.
Paul Debevec is one of the designers and engineers of the Light Stage X capture system.
(U.S. Army Institute for Creative Technologies)
Paul Debevec continues as an Adjunct Research Professor at USC Viterbi and at the USC ICT Vision Graphics Lab. Wan-Chun “Alex” Ma was Paul Debevec’s first Ph.D student at USC ICT and Xueming Yu joined the USC ICT Graphics Lab in 2008 as a USC Viterbi Master’s student. Tim Hawkins now runs a commercial light stage scanning service in Burbank for OTOY, who licensed the light stage technology through USC Stevens in 2008.
This is the second Academy Sci-Tech award being given to the Light Stage technology developed at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies. The first, given nine years ago, was for the earliest light stage capture devices and the “image-based facial rendering system developed for character relighting in motion pictures” and was awarded to Paul Debevec, Tim Hawkins, John Monos, and Mark Sagar.
Established in 1999, the Army’s ICT is a DOD-sponsored University Affiliated Research Center working in collaboration with the Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) Research Laboratory’s UARCs are aligned with prestigious institutions conducting research at the forefront of science and innovation.
The RDECOM Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to ensure decisive overmatch for unified land operations to empower the Army, the joint warfighter and our nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.
The F-16 Fighting Falcon and the F/A-18 Hornet are both “lightweight” fighters. Each was intended to complement a larger, heavier fighter (the F-15 for the F-16, the F-14 for the F/A-18). But they also have some big differences. Let’s look over some of them:
1. The number of engines
The F-16 has one engine – the F/A-18 has two. This is largely due to their differing operational environments. The F-16 operates from land bases, while the F/A-18 operates primarily from carriers.
Of course, this also bears a lot on survivability. If an F-16 loses an engine, the pilot’s gotta grab the loud handle. An F/A-18, on the other hand, can limp back to the carrier.
2. Operating from a carrier
The F-16 is tied to land bases – its landing gear cannot handle the shock of hitting a carrier deck. On the other hand, the F/A-18 can readily shift between a carrier operation and flying from land bases.
3. Initial weapons suite
Did you know the F-16 originally didn’t have any radar-guided missiles? Aviation historian Joe Baugher notes that early A/B versions (Blocks 1, 5, 10, and 15) didn’t have the ability to fire the AIM-120 AMRAAM or AIM-7 Sparrow. The Block 15 ADF was the first version to carry a radar guided missile, the AIM-7.
The F/A-18, though, could carry radar-guided missiles from day one. This was because while the F/A-18 was replacing an attack plane, it was also intended to help defend the carrier.
4. Pure speed
The F-16 has a top speed of Mach 2.0. The F/A-18 can only reach Mach 1.8. Still, these planes are both very fast when they need to be. But in a pure drag race, the F-16 will win – and by a decent margin.
5. How they refuel
The F/A-18 uses a probe to latch into a drogue. The good news is that it can use just about anyone’s tankers – even USAF tankers, which are modified to carry drogues in addition to their booms.
The F-16s in the United States Air Force inventory, though, have a receptacle for the boom from a KC-135, KC-10, or KC-46 to plug into. Part of this is because the Air Force also has to refuel big bombers and cargo planes that need a lot of fuel quickly – and the boom can do just that.
6. Movie career
The F-16 has a clear edge in this one. In the movie “Iron Eagle,” the F-16 is arguably the star alongside Louis Gossett, Jr. (Chappy Sinclair) and Jason Gedrick (Doug Masters). The F/A-18 played a role in “Independence Day,” but it wasn’t quite the star the F-16 was in Iron Eagle.
So, what other differences can you think of between these two planes?